Queen celebrates Virginia's founding
Monarch stresses diversity, healing
RICHMOND, Va. -- Queen Elizabeth II arrived yesterday for the commemoration of Jamestown's 400th anniversary and praised the cultural changes that have occurred since she last visited America's first permanent English settlement 50 years ago.
The last time the queen helped Virginia mark the anniversary of its Colonial founding, it was an all-white affair in a state whose government was in open defiance of a 1954 Supreme Court order to desegregate public schools.
"Over the course of my reign and certainly since I first visited Jamestown in 1957, my country has become a much more diverse society just as the Commonwealth of Virginia and the whole United States of America have also undergone a major social change," the queen said in speech to the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, the first stop on her visit.
"The melting pot metaphor captures one of the great strengths of your country and is an inspiration to others around the world as we face the continuing social challenges ahead," she said.
Governor Timothy M. Kaine said the message couldn't be more timely or appropriate.
"This is a moment that brings Virginia together . . . in the aftermath of a hard time," Kaine said during a news conference, referring to the April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech.
After the speech, the queen met briefly with students and faculty from Virginia Tech, including three who were wounded. Among them was Katelyn Carney, who was shot in the hand during the massacre and presented the queen with a bracelet with 32 polished stones-- one for each person slain -- in the school's colors, maroon and orange.
"My heart goes out to the students, friends, and families of those killed and to the many others who have been affected, some of whom I shall be meeting shortly," the queen said during the speech.
"On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, I extend my deepest sympathies at this time of such grief and sorrow."
The plane carrying the 81-year-old queen landed at midafternoon, and 20 minutes later she emerged with her husband, Prince Philip.
Hundreds of people stood in lines for hours in a cool drizzle, some since dawn, to enter the grounds of the freshly refurbished 219-year-old Capitol.
"How often do you get to see the reigning monarch, much less in your own town?" said Keith Gary, the first spectator through the gates.
Inside the Capitol, the queen met briefly with the lead construction worker on the $105 million, two-year Capitol renovation project, which was completed Monday; with high school student body leaders; and with 100-year-old Oliver W. Hill. Hill is a civil rights attorney whose litigation helped bring about the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public schools.
Frail at 100 years old and in a wheelchair, Hill greeted the queen in the rotunda of the Capitol that once was the seat of the Confederate government.
He said later that he was pleased she noticed the social changes he helped broker.
"It's not every day you bump into royalty," Hill said.
Last evening the queen visited Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia's restored 18th-century capital.